Land Rover is upgrading its entire range this year, and the Range Rover Sport shares many enhancements with both the Range Rover from which it gets its posh good looks and the LR4 (nee LR3) with which it shares most of its essential underpinnings. (You'll recall, of course, that the senior Range Rover was designed during BMW's ownership on a front strut/rear multilink architecture, while the LR4 and Range Sport lines use control arms fore and aft.) So the electrical architecture upgrade and 5.0-liter V-8 are shared with all, and the new interior is a swankier interpretation of the LR4's general design with a unique, higher center console and more wood.
New front and rear styling reinterpret the Range Rover's with a lower, sleeker stance. It shares its new predictive adaptive suspension damping logic, optional 510-horse supercharged V-8, and big honking brakes with Range senior and trumps them both with its own Dynamic Program setting on the Terrain Response drivetrain and suspension control system (Supercharged models only). This new setting works only on road in high range, and it makes the throttle and shift programming more aggressive while tightening control of the continuously variable Bilstein DampTronic shocks and the hydraulically controlled anti-roll bar. New programming on the stability control system slows the vehicle if a corner is being negotiated at too high a speed when the system is fully on. Moving the gearshift lever left on either HSE or Supercharged models sharpens throttle response and shift times, and when Sport and Dynamic modes are engaged in the S/C model the transmission automatically downshifts early enough to prompt racy throttle blips and it holds low gears in turns.
These changes conspire with new 20-inch tires to help the new Range Rover Sport Supercharged circulate the Nuerburgring in just 8 minutes/42 seconds. That's a few seconds behind the musclebound Germans (Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, BMW X6 M--all of which are 400-600 pounds lighter), but drive all four of them directly off pit row without a tire change and up a rocky, muddy, grassy two-track into the Eiffel Mountains and the smart money's on the Rover.
Mind you, there is a limit to what Y-rated road tires can do in mud. Our travels across a Scottish grouse-hunting property involved one steep hill of mud and grass that required a tow from a knobby-tired LR4. And any 40- or 50-series tire (S/C or HSE) is going to be susceptible to sidewall damage in heavy off-roading (a rocky descent into a long muddy water trough claimed at least one tire in our procession), but the savvy settings of Terrain Response work miracles at getting this SUV up, over, and through tougher stuff than most folks will ever tackle in a $60,000-$85,000 sports tourer.
On brisk, smooth, grippy and curvy tarmac in the underpopulated Scottish Borders area, the Sport Supercharged cornered absolutely flat, generating bolster-crushing lateral g before rocketing out of the corners with Germanic authority. The revised transmission in Sport mode Dynamic Program selects the right gear automatically in most cases, but shifter paddles are always within easy reach if an override is called for (the paddles are S/C only in the U.S.). We're a little less enthusiastic about the nervous ride and steering quality. There's a slight jitteriness to the Supercharged Sport's ride, even in normal mode, and the quicker steering ratio makes it feel a bit too quick off center, the combination of which can lead to bump steer of the type where a harsh impact unintentionally causes you to pull down on the wheel a bit with one hand. Active anti-roll bars utterly alleviate the problem of head-toss that plague the ML AMG and others of this ilk on one-wheel dips. The HSE model dials the intensity back considerably and makes for a much comfier high-speed cruiser. Its taller 19-inch rubber makes it the better bet at a grouse-shooting break as well.
|2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport |
| Base price || $60,495-$74,195 |
| Vehicle layout || Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV |
| Engines || 5.0L/375-hp/375-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8; 5.0L/510- hp/461-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8 |
| Transmission || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight || 5550-5700 lb (mfr) |
| Wheelbase || 108.0 in |
| Length x width x height || 188.3 x 76.1 x 68.3-72.5 in |
| 0-60 mph || 5.9-7.2 sec (mfr est) |
| EPA city/hwy econ || 12-13/17-18 mpg |
| CO2 emissions || 1.31-1.40 lb/mile |
| On sale in the U.S. || Currently |